A Ghost Story

by Oct 14, 2022History, Online Exclusives, South Brunswick

If you find the Oiuja board, please do not tempt the Ghost of Jimmy Gray to return.

I trust that the spirit of Jimmy Gray is finally at peace in the spirit realm and no longer clamoring for an audience here. The only things not real about the following story are the altered names of those other than the ghost and the inn she haunted on these barrier islands. That may be too enticing an “invitation” and encourage her to find a way from eternity back to this world.

First, Jimmy was a tomboy and didn’t go by her given name of Jeannette. Appearing to us after death, she was more like Casper the Friendly Ghost than the angel of death. But a ghost of any kind repeatedly in the room is always unnerving. I don’t recommend you try inviting a spirit into your life, by the way. That’s how Jimmy got here in the first place.

Born in 1923 of poor parents, with nine siblings, she was described as attractive, vivacious, very loving and caring, and one who never knew a stranger. The family’s neighbors were well-to-do and owned the popular Castaway Restaurant and Inn on the island. They didn’t have children and because the Great Depression was so hard on the Grays, the neighbors affectionately adopted Jimmy and gave her the best of everything. She inherited the inn upon their deaths.

Jimmy Gray 1941

Our grown-up Jimmy became the queen of the inn, greeting customers, entertaining on the piano, bartending. A little bit of everything. Well known. Well liked. The remains of a shipwreck lay near the inn, and the fun-loving Jimmy would hang out there after work and party. She may have cut herself on a deck rail and died in 1961 at age 38 after a two-week illness caused by hepatitis.

Five years later, Jimmy got an invitation. The employees of the inn’s new owner began playing Ouija, also known as a spirit board or talking board. It’s a flat game board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0 to 9, the words “yes,” “no,” occasionally “hello” and “goodbye,” along with various symbols and graphics. It uses a heart-shaped planchette as a movable indicator to spell out messages during a séance. Participants place their fingers on the planchette, and players move it around the board to spell out words. Mainstream Christian denominations have warned against the use of Ouija boards, holding that they can lead to demonic possession — and unwanted visits from the dead, including the devil itself.

The employees became addicted to the game and one night had a very bad feeling. The planchette got out of control and was moving on its own.

It was then that Jimmy came home, bringing a legion of other ghostly spirits who followed.

Kevin Gunn locked up that night after turning out the lights. When he got in his car, he noticed the lights had come back on. He went in to turn them off again. A spirit leg stretched out and tripped him. Bill Voit was prepping the inn for a spring opening when he heard a crash. The nail was still in the wall, and the wire was still on its back, but the broken mirror on the floor seemed to have leaped off the wall – by itself.

Jimmy & Brother Curtis Gray

It was just that dark, heavy, closed-in, vulnerable feeling that someone was there — watching you. Even in the bathrooms. Doors creaking. Footsteps. Someone climbing the stairs. A woman appearing in a window after hours. The lights would go on, and the water faucets would flow, then stop, then start — and do that all night. But when Mary Fletch and four friends heard the piano playing by itself, they knew it was the consummate entertainer, the now invisible Jimmy Gray.

“Jimmy, stop it. You’re scaring us,” Fletch yelled. And she stopped and didn’t bother them again.

The pranks became more often and more frightening, and the guests became more infrequent as a result. The old inn went into disrepair, and there was nothing else to do but demolish it. And with that, Jimmy and her spirit friends departed. The furniture and items from the inn went to auction and as donations to local thrift stores — including one worn-out invitation to the realm of the dead — the accursed Ouija board. Oh, woe to the one who has it now!